A Home for the DIY Spirit in All of us Championing self-made artists, one shop at a time

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Having an open market approach to creating a sustainable art-based business is essential. In the modern era, the idea of selling your art can become a reality thanks to art fairs, craft shows and other online resources like Etsy. While these are all great entry points for artists, they are often met with inconsistency and lack of commitment from their artists over time. While these may be the traits that define modern artists looking to make a few bucks for their art, the accessibility of the Do It Yourself (DIY) industry comes with struggles. This is where River City MRKT (RCM) is changing the game.

RCM is essentially a self-curating affair that celebrates regional artists through pop-up events and participation in local street fairs. These events are just pieces of a larger, dedicated experience; crafted by founders Amalia Boukos & Debbie Carlos. The two envisioned their business after forming a bond through their mutual appreciation and passions for unique handcrafted goods; such as jewelry, apparel, natural beauty care products, stationery and furniture.

“In 2014, I started spending more time making items and then eventually selling them on Etsy,” said Boukos. “In the fall of that year I decided to organize a modern craft fair in town, but it wasn’t until early 2015 that Debbie and I began planning the first RCM. Our first market was June 6, 2015 at the Creative Corridor in REO Town. There were 21 super talented artists selling their goods at our market and the turnout and feedback were very positive.”

The two have a knack for hand selecting the items that are featured in their shops and online stores. With a focus on bringing attention to individual artists that are making high-quality goods, they continue to champion the DIY spirit you may find in the aforementioned markets, on a local scale.

“We have had a variety of artists represented in our pop-ups and we would love to continue working with all of them. But, there is also a motivation to keep things fresh for our customers and to promote new artists, so there is always something or someone new at each event as well as a few repeat artists,” explained Boukos. “Our motive is to support artists, so as they grow their own businesses and get noticed by brick and mortar retailers, we may not carry their items anymore, but instead look for new artists to promote.”

While the two look for expressive innovation in the pieces they select, they are conscious of making art accessible. While their works of art range in price, they are always backed by quality craftsmanship and marked with an obtainable price tag. The two don’t see art as something for the elites and want to make sure that their featured products and the artists they work with are enjoyed by a wider audience. The unique style of business offers them both advantages and challenges.

“I would say that the significant advantage for us as a pop-up has been avoiding the financial risks that come with long-term leases and accumulating inventory. Space for our one-day events has been affordable, and taking on inventory has been possible with a consignment model,” explained Boukos. “But yes, store fronts have their advantages too. RCM pop-ups come and go but most people are creatures of habit and it’s easier to do that than to wait for the next RCM event. Because we’re so web-based I think we’ve limited our demographic. We’re fortunate to have many repeat customers but I think a store front would make it easier to grow our regular client base.”

With a focus on the little things around them, they’re crafting a brand that embodies the bigger picture. River City MRKT is an emerging center for artists and craftsmen that is well on its way to becoming an established force for change in the way we consume retail art and designer goods.

“We are still an experiment in so many ways, still finding our feet,” said Boukos. “I think we have been successful in that we have given good exposure to our artists and I believe that many of them have had more successes from having worked with us. We’ve been able to encourage young artists to keep going and give them a space to sell their work and see how well their art is received by the public.”

For more information on River City MRKT, its event dates, the online store and how you can get involved as an artist, visit rivercityMRKT.com


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Adam Lansdell

Adam Lansdell

Adam Lansdell is an Alumni of Grand Valley State University, and currently a Communication Specialist with M3 Group of Lansing. With a passionate for all things creative it comes as no surprise that he’s also a musician, movie buff and graphic designer. Adam spends his down time biking, and spending too much of his personal income on concert tickets or vinyl records

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